Cook Strait Crossing Wgtn to Picton – 12 Sept 2020

Crew: Geoff, Grant, Malcolm and Eduardo.

Wellington Marine: Southerly 20 knots, easing to 10 knots early morning, and to variable 5 knots late morning. Northerly 10 knots developing around midday, rising to 15 knots in the afternoon. Moderate sea easing early morning. Mainly fine.

Cook: Southerly easing to variable 10 knots Saturday morning. Northerly 15 knots developing around midday Saturday, rising to 25 knots Saturday evening. Very rough sea easing. Southerly swell 2 metres, easing. Poor visibility in showers, clearing by evening.

The Plan
Wellington high tide 1210 hrs 1.6 m. 
Leave Wellington to arrive at Sinclair Head 1 hour before HW Wellington.
0900 hrs – Leave Chaffers Marina
1100 hrs – Arrive Sinclair Head (2.5 hrs at 5.5 kts)
1500 hrs – Arrive Tory Channel (4 hrs at 5.5 kts)
1830 hrs – Arrive Picton or mooring somewhere (3.5 hrs at 5.5 kts)

Saturday 12 Sept
We departed Chaffers Marina at 0908 hrs with Eduardo on helm in a light northerly breeze with No. 3 Jib and full Mainsail. Geoff called Maritime Radio to lodge a trip report and we motor sailed out through Wellington Heads. Once we passed Palmer Head and avoided hitting any crayfish pods, we turned off the engine and sailed west while the wind increased to about 15 kts.

We passed Sinclair Head at 1116 hrs on schedule to enter Karori Rip in time for slack water. It was a bit bouncy and we all had our tethers securely fastened as we sailed through the rip at about 6 kts speed through the water (STW) helped by the tide to give us about 8 kts speed over ground (SOG). After sailing past Thoms Rock at 1138 hrs we thought the rough sea state would calm down once we left the Karori Rip but the northerly kept on increasing to around 25 kts and the sea became uncomfortably rough.

With Grant doing a great job on helm we put the first reef in the Mainsail and shortly after, the second reef. We continued making good progress sailing at 6-7 kts with the boat well heeled over in 25 kts of wind and waves breaking over the bow. After a couple of hours mid Cook Strait, Eduardo and Geoff succumbed and threw up over the side. Geoff’s state wasn’t helped by being in the cabin mopping up water which was over flowing from the fresh water tank air vent. The tanks had been topped up the day before and we eventually figured out that the starboard tank was equalising into the port tank while we were heeled over.

Geoff took over helm for a while until we reached the Tory Channel reporting zone where we called “All Ships” on Ch. 16 advising our ETA to the channel entrance. No other vessels to be seen. We motor sailed through the entrance at 1428 hrs with a following tide doing 8 kts SOG and 6 kts STW. We were relieved to finally enter the tranquillity of Tory Channel. With Malcolm on helm and dodging the ferries we motor sailed down to the shelter of Ngaruru Bay where we tied up on the mooring at 1538 hrs. The dinghy was launched and we enjoyed rowing to the beach and exploring the beautiful bay as well as using the DOC campsite facilites. In the evening we celebrated our crossing with a beer and dinner of delicious beef bourguignon (pre-prepared by Graciela) washed down with some nice Chilean wine.

Sunday 13 Sept
Woke up to a glorious peaceful morning in Ngaruru Bay. After a hearty breakfast and exploring around the bay in the dinghy we cast off from the mooring at 1000 hrs and motor sailed into Tory Channel and down Queen Charlotte Sound with Malcolm on helm. We were accompanied by a pod of about 12 beautiful dolphins for a while. Arrived at the Picton Marina at 1300 hrs where we tied up initially at the fuel jetty while Geoff negotiated a better berth with Graham in the marina office.

After lunch we motored round to the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary in Shakespeare Bay. Tied Halo up at the jetty and enjoyed a walk around the peninsula. On return to Picton marina we tied up at the new berth. That evening we went into town and had dinner at Cafe Cortado before retreating to Halo. Geoff got the ukulele out and we had a fun musical evening. Malcolm surprised us all by joining in with his nice tin whistle.

Monday 14 Sept
After breakfast we hired bikes from Steve at Adventure Company and did the Link Pathway bike ride. A very enjoyable four hour ride around the Shakespeare Bay, Wedge Point and along Grove Arm as far as the lookout above Governors Bay. Had dinner at the Oxleys Pub which seemed to be the only place open on Monday night and was very busy.

Tuesday 15 Sept
The Cook Strait forecasts were still not looking good for the return to Wellington so we decided to opt for Plan C which was to take the ferry back home and leave Halo in Picton. After breakfast in the sun on Halo we went for a nice hike to Bob’s Bay and up to the Harbour View Walkway around the hills.
Eduardo and Geoff visited the interesting Edwin Fox Museum. Edwin Fox is the world’s second oldest surviving merchant sailing ship – built in 1853.
We then tied Halo up to a private mooring in Picton harbour which Geoff had negotiated with its owner, a Wellington dentist. Steve very kindly let us store the dinghy in his shop. Had a picnic lunch on the Picton foreshore before boarding the Kaitaki for a restful trip home.

Many thanks to Malcolm and Eduardo for contributing great photos:

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